On Renewable Energy and Climate, Trump Voters Stand Apart

February 2, 2017

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Summary

Globally, 2016 was the warmest year on record, surpassing records set in 2015 and 2014,1 and each new record emphasizes the longer-term upward trend. Though not every place on Earth experienced warming effects last year, they were quite evident in many areas. Rising South Pacific sea temperatures caused the largest die-off ever recorded of the coral that composes Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice reached record lows for several months of the year. Among scientists looking at such data, there is overwhelming agreement that human activities are shifting Earth’s climate in hazardous directions, and urgent actions are needed to slow this down.2 Among U.S. politicians and the public, however, there remain wide divisions on whether human-caused climate change is real, whether scientists agree, and whether anything should be done.3

Though climate change received little media attention during the 2016 presidential campaign, recent surveys indicate that climate change and related energy issues are taken seriously by a growing majority of the public. An example is shown in Figure 1, which charts responses to climate-change and renewable-energy questions from a post-election Polar, Environment, and Science (POLES) survey carried out by Carsey School researchers in November–December 2016. The sample comprised 707 adults from all 50 states.4